Persistent DLP issues a concern, say political scientists

If the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is to be a viable alternative to the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in the next election, it must quickly settle its internal disputes.  

This is the view of political scientist Devaron Bruce, who was responding to the latest impasse in the party. Following the filing of a no-confidence motion against DLP president Dr Ronnie Yearwood last Wednesday, which has since been ruled invalid by the DLP Executive Council, Bruce told the Nation team the development confirmed speculation that divisions within the party were widening.  

“As it relates to the viability of the DLP, we know that Barbadians will not elect a party that is divided. We have seen this before in 2013 with the BLP. Barbadians do not want to elect a divided party because the assumption is that they would be divided in Government and therefore would not operate to the benefit
of the country. 

“If the DLP is serious about governing going forward, it must settle these divisions because the reality is that they have one [MP] in Parliament, who was not even elected on a DLP ticket,” Bruce said.  

Also weighing in was fellow political scientist Dr Kristina Hinds, who described the development as concerning. She suggested that the issues might just be teething problems as the party fully embraces Ralph Thorne as political leader. 

“One would have hoped that the party would have ironed out these issues internally without it getting to this, but since it has come here, I guess we must wait and see how members of the party will address this matter. It is concerning for those who were hoping that Ralph Thorne’s crossing of the floor and joining the party would provide greater legitimacy and stability for the DLP, but this may be just part of the
earlier teething pains,” she said.

 On the other hand, veteran political scientist Peter Wickham said: “The main problem is the look of persistent disunity . . . My greater concern is the signal this sends. It is clear that Yearwood is not yet ready to acknowledge the superior role of Ralph Thorne and, to this end, he is playing a dangerous game that he cannot win and is harming the DLP in the process of defending his turf.” 

Longstanding member of the party, Hartley Reid, delivered the motion to party headquarters in George Street, outlining the rationale behind the move designed to trigger fresh party elections, which are due in 2025.   

It was reported that 84 people signed the motion, which also called for the removal of party general secretary Steve Blackett as well as the entire Executive Council of the party.   

At a meeting held last Thursday, Blackett said the council ruled that there were several procedural flaws with the motion. Among them was the charge that some of the 84 people signing the motion were not members of the DLP. It was also claimed that some of the names affixed were without the consent of the people.

Blackett said further investigations into the matter would be conducted by other organs of the party.

At the heart of the issue, according to the motion signed by Reid, were the actions resulting from the March 26, 2024 correspondence signed by Allan Chastanet, political leader of the United Workers Party of St Lucia, and sent to Blackett, inviting Opposition Leader Ralph Thorne to join them in celebrating their 60th anniversary as a political party. 

 The correspondence further asserted that Thorne was never notified of the invitation, but a delegation headed by president Ronnie Yearwood “attended purporting to represent the DLP”. 

As it relates to the settlement of the leadership issue, Bruce said it might be advisable to have the powers of the political leader and the president vested in one person. He said failing this, the only alternative was learning to work together.  

“It is not about the leaders; it is about the benefit of Barbados and being able to put up a viable alternative. They need to recognise that fighting among themselves is tantamount to swallowing their own tail. The other problem is that the party is not focusing on whom it ought to be focusing on, and that is the Barbados Labour Party. 

“ The option of one political leader leaving or stepping aside is also an option. Ultimately, it is a united front. You sometimes must work with the person that does not support you. However, you cannot have a situation where you are constantly fighting among yourselves,” he said.

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